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10 July 2017

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Shame at IRA's blood-soaked, futile campaign explains Sinn Fein's desire to rewrite history

Republican propaganda has even airbrushed John Hume out of public consciousness

Poles apart: Gerry Adams (pictured) is a late convert to the peaceful nationalism espoused by John Hume
Poles apart: Gerry Adams (pictured) is a late convert to the peaceful nationalism espoused by John Hume

I was in combat last week in Glenarm with Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein’s legendary propagandist, at Summer Madness, a Christian youth festival.

The referees were David Blevins of Sky News and Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance. 

The subject was “Fake news, does the truth matter?” and though Mr Morrison and I think it does, we have very different views on what is the truth about Northern Ireland’s recent history.

Although he is one of the very few senior republicans I like and we get on well outside the public arena, we have little common ground on this subject.

From his perspective, I am wilfully blind to the sufferings of Catholics in the past that caused them to rise up in self-defence.

From mine, although I can understand how young people got caught up in violence early on, there is not a shred of justification for the murder campaigns carried out by paramilitaries of any stripe and his selective list of sins committed by them ’uns is a travesty.

I also consider the lies being deliberately told to whitewash a bloodstained history make Sinn Fein — the party he supports even though he is no longer a member — consistently despicable.   

It has also made them impossible to work with, because lies destroy trust. 

In my few days in Northern Ireland I asked a wide range of people if a new DUP/Sinn Fein deal was possible.

Pessimism was rampant, and common themes were that power-sharing by people who loathe each other ultimately cannot work, that direct rule is preferable for now and that everyone should get back to the drawing board and devise a new political settlement that does not reward tribalism.  

There was deep revulsion about the way in which Sinn Fein has morphed into a cult built on lies.

Shane Paul O’Doherty, who served 15 years in jail for the crimes he committed as an IRA “child soldier” (of which he is deeply ashamed), wrote last week that it would be a boon to the islands of Ireland and Britain if in addition to promoting and preserving the Irish language, “Sinn Fein/IRA were also dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the truths of the IRA’s sectarian gun and bomb campaign and promotion of those truths to victims of its murders.”

He recommends an Irish Truth Act for victims.

As he put it starkly, “There is a deep moral evil abroad in Northern Ireland and it lies in Sinn Fein’s project to finally kill truth and replace it with lies.”

Last week too, there was a telling contribution on the same subject from veteran left-winger Eamonn McCann who appears in a new documentary about John Hume.  

He had listened to a guide giving schoolchildren from the Republic an account of a history of the Bogside in which Mr Hume didn’t feature until the Hume-Adams talks.

(For the benefit of those with an uncertain grasp of history, Derryman John Hume was involved with the civil rights movement from the 1960s, and as a founder and then leader of the SDLP was a spokesman for constitutional nationalism who enraged the IRA by securing a global audience for his eloquent opposition to violence.  

With David Trimble, he would win a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing about the Good Friday Agreement.)

Mr Hume is 80 now, but since the late 1990s, the onset of dementia has taken him off the public stage and enabled republicans cynically to airbrush him out of the nationalist narrative to help with the destruction of his party.   

As Mr McCann put it a propos the Bogside fakery: “That’s the level of the distortion of history which supporters of the IRA are involved with.  

“They have to. They can’t kill the truth.”

Well, under the leadership of their party president of 34 years, Gerry “I-was-never-in-the-IRA” Adams, they’ve put as much energy into killing truth as their paramilitaries put into killing people.  

Quite a lot of them have come to believe their own lies because they can’t  bear to see a light shone on a squalid, vicious murder campaign in pursuit of a united Ireland which sowed only hatred and division.  

We must all keep challenging the “deep moral evil” that is their fake news.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

The paperback of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic will be published on April 23.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Jeremy Corbyn, who lost the general election, on stage at Glastonbury
© Ruth Dudley Edwards